Nigel Worthington to step down as N Ireland manager

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington is to step down from his position after Tuesday night's final Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy.

Worthington has been the subject of criticism from a section of supporters following a poor qualifying campaign.

The former Norwich City boss was in charge for four and a half years but failed to secure qualification for any major finals during his reign.

Northern Ireland had won just two of their last 23 games under Worthington.

His team scored only 12 goals in those 23 fixtures.

The 49-year-old's contract would have run out on 31 December this year.

Northern Ireland harboured hopes of qualification for the European Championship finals prior to defeats at home to Serbia and away to Estonia in September.

The pressure on the manager increased following Friday night's 2-1 defeat by Estonia at Windsor Park, after which many fans called for Worthington to quit.

I feel it is only right to give the Association and players the opportunity and time to move forward

Nigel Worthington

Worthington, who won 66 caps for his country as a player, succeeded Lawrie Sanchez, who left to manage Fulham in 2007.

He was in charge for 40 games, winning nine, drawing 10 and losing 21.

His side won eight of their 25 competitive fixtures, with seven draws and 10 losses.

"I have had four and a half fantastic years working with the Irish Football Association and a lot of hard work has been put in by many people over this time to help improve Northern Ireland football," said Worthington.

"I feel it is only right to give the Association and players the opportunity and time to move forward and that is why I have decided that Tuesday night's game will be my last in charge.

"It has been a pleasure and I would like to wish the Irish Football Association all the best for the future, and to the supporters who have been fantastic throughout.

"I understand their frustration over the last three games, but when you look at the incident which saw us lose the Serbia game, the individual mistakes away to Estonia, and then the game at home against Estonia, this is the fine line in football."

Nigel Worthington

Supporters called for Worthington's departure during Friday night's game with Estonia

"I would like to say a big thank to the Irish FA for their support - it is a fantastic organisation with many good people doing a great job for Northern Ireland football.

"I would like to give a special thanks to the President, Jim Shaw and the Chief Executive, Patrick Nelson for their ongoing support to help take Northern Ireland football forward.

"This is not because of any pressure from the Association or the supporters - it's just a football decision."

IFA President, Jim Shaw said: "I appreciate Nigel's decision on this matter and on behalf of the Association I would like to thank him for all the effort he has put in over his four and half years to maintain and improve all elements of football at the Irish Football Association.

"Both personally and on behalf of the Association I would like to wish Nigel all the very best for the future."

Among the favourites to take the job  will be former Ipswich Town and Queens Park Rangers manager Jim Magilton, Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O'Neill, and former Northern Ireland captain Iain Dowie.